John 15:12-17 | Love Commanded and Continued | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 15:12–15:17
Please open to John 15. The text for the morning is John 15:12-17. We come to a new section of John. We’ve done four weeks about abiding in Christ and bearing fruit, and now we come to a section that we’re entitling, if I can get my notes here, “Friends of Jesus in the World.” Friends of Jesus in the world.
If you follow the news in any way, in the last couple weeks you may have heard a couple of US senators question a gentleman who was being nominated for a certain position in the US government, and they basically questioned him and questioned the fact of whether he believed that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation. He said yes, that was what he held to, a historically Christian belief; and they basically castigated him for that. If you go by the transcript, you can really tell that if they had their way, no Christian would be in any sort of US government office. That he held to a view that’s been held by thousands and thousands, if not millions, for two thousand years, but for some reason there’s a certain level of hatred today toward people who view Jesus as the only way to heaven.
And so, I think this text is appropriate, not only this text, but this whole series, and I don’t know if it’ll be five or six messages, something like that, but this whole series through the end of John 16, Jesus is really kind of giving his disciples some facts on what to look for, what’s gonna be coming.
He tells them things like, they’re gonna hate you. That’s not the most encouraging thing to say as he’s about to leave them. But he also gives them much encouragement in that. He promises the Spirit. We’ve learned a little bit about the Holy Spirit in John 14. He will say more about him in John 16.
Before he gives them these things that may cause them sorrow, which he identifies that these facts will do to them, before he gives them these truths about what will cause them sorrow and even some ways that they will be comforted and cared for even while he’s gone, he calls them something. And he calls them something in this text that we’re in today. He calls them friends.
Now to us, you know, we know songs like “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and “Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners.” People at this time didn’t normally think of God as a friend. God as a judge, yes. God as holy, yes. God as sovereign, yes. But God as a friend? Not so much.
And so for Jesus to say that they are his friends is a huge statement. We know that God is holy and that he cannot look on sin. So the fact that he calls some sinners his friends is jaw-dropping. It’s amazing. And it’s important that he calls them his friends before he tells them the difficult things that he’s about to tell them.
And so that’s why we’re calling this series “Friends of Jesus in the World,” and my prayer going through, reading through a number of times John 15 and John 16, is that in a sense these two chapters would really reorient our priorities. I think there are some things, if you’re reading these passages and being taught these passages, life shouldn’t be the same from when you started and then when you finish. There should be some differences here. And there should be some things that we hope in, more confidence that we have in Christ than we might have right now.
And so we’ll dive on in, and this morning we’ll be in verse 12 through 17 of John 15. I’m calling this text “Love Commanded and Continued.” Love commanded and love continued.
Follow along as I read John 15:12-17.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
If you look at the disciples before the resurrection and before they received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they are a lot different than the disciples who wrote the New Testament epistles, aren’t they? I mean, they’re a lot different. You think the people who wrote the New Testament epistles were probably sinless, never did anything wrong. It’s so clear it’s from the Holy Spirit, but you expect these men to be giants of the faith, and they are.
But before the resurrection, before this command, before the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they were a mess—an arrogant, prideful, impatient mess of men. That’s what they were. There are a number of occasions in the gospels where we are told about their bickering, told about their arguing.
Luke 9:46. After the transfiguration. So a few of them were brought up to the mount of transfiguration to see the glorified Christ, what he would look like after his resurrection, and what did they say? They said, can we stay here? Can we build booths? Can we build some shelters so that we can just stay here? And the answer, obviously, was no. There’ll be a time for that.
But Jesus told them to go down the mountain, and he told them not to tell anyone. That would have been hard for a prideful man. Hey, guess what I just saw. And you didn’t. But I don’t know if they obeyed his command not to tell anyone, but they certainly operated as if they were better than the other disciples.
Luke 9:46: “An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.” Of course it did. Of course it did. Hey, you guys know where we’re on the mountain? You know what we saw on the mountain? No, what’d you see? I’m not allowed to tell ya. That’s what it was.
And then somehow a discussion came up about which one of them was greatest. Surprise, surprise. Mark 10:35: “And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’” Okay, prayer. A prayer request. There’s nothing wrong with that. “And he said to them, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory’” (Mark 10:36-37). The places of privilege in your glory. James and John. The other disciples—they can be lower, somewhere else.
Verse 41 of Mark 10 says, “And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.” Conflict. Pride. Arrogance.
Luke 22:24. In our upper room discourse in John, John says the most of any gospel writer about what happened in that upper room. The other gospel writers don’t give as much ink to it. But something that John doesn’t tell us that Luke does about the upper room discourse is that when Jesus announces his betrayer and when he announced it would be one of them, another argument arose as to which one was greater.
Luke 22:24: “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.” We can do some conjecture here. Guys, one of you is gonna betray me. And the end of that conversation ends up being, I’m better than you; I would never do that; you totally would do that. Remember that time he told you to go left and you actually said you thought there was a better way? They would’ve totally done this. The disciples were repeatedly arguing, bickering, in conflict with one another before the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, before they witnessed the miracle of the resurrection, before this command to love one another.
Is this not the church’s reputation today? And we have his command to love one another. And we have his indwelling Holy Spirit. And we have testimony of the resurrection which proves his power. And yet oftentimes we look more like the disciples before all of this than after all of this.
This text is important for us today. So this morning, we’re gonna see the command to love like Christ and the ability to love like Christ. The command to love like Christ and the ability to love like Christ.
1. The Command to Love Like Christ
First, the command to love like Christ, found in verses 12 to 14. Christ calls his disciples to love—not just love, by the way—to love like he has loved them, as he has loved them. So he calls us to love each other just as he has loved us.
Verse 12: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” This is the second time he’s said something like this in the upper room. He said it back in 13, verse 34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” This is the second time he’s saying this to them, and obviously as we’ve looked at, they didn’t have a good track record of this. They were in it for themselves. They said they loved Jesus, but they didn’t really love all of Jesus’ followers.
Sounds familiar even today. That doesn’t work with Jesus. You say you love me; you’re gonna love one another. But, but, Lord, you’re perfect; they aren’t. You think he doesn’t know that? He knows that. It’s hard for us.
Now that they’ve been changed, or will be changed, they were to be a group of people who love other sinners—they themselves sinners, called to love other sinners. Christ expects them to show their love to him by showing their love to one another.
Verse 13. Jesus talks about this love that he wants them to embody. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” So Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Well how has he loved us? How did he love them? He laid down his life for them.
So Jesus is calling us to love one another by sacrificing for one another, to lay down our life for one another. There’s no greater love in all the earth than what Jesus did for his disciples. There’s no greater love in all the earth than what Jesus did for you if you are in Christ. There’s no greater love in all the earth.
We’ve all sinned against the holy Creator God. All of us have. We’ve all offended him, all desired to go our own way, and Jesus came to die for our penalty. He came to receive the wrath of God that we deserve. And we don’t get an ounce of that wrath. Not one bit. We won’t experience hell for half of a second. He experienced the wrath of God. The eternal wrath of God for everyone who would ever believe, he experienced. That’s love that we don’t deserve. And he’s saying, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
And listen, let’s just make it clear: He didn’t die for us because we were his friends. God demonstrates his own love for us, that while we were sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). He died for us while we were enemies, while we were sinners, to make us his friends. So I don’t just show up and say, I’m your friend God, so I receive all the benefits of your death, Jesus. No, he died so that we would become his friends. He didn’t die because we already were his friends. He died to forgive our sins and to make us his friends.
Verse 14: “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” So, love one another like I have by laying down my life. You are my friends if you do that. Implication: If you don’t love sacrificially, love even when offended, you are not my friends. Because when Christ dies for us, he changes us to be like him. That’s the doctrine of conversion or regeneration. You can see that in John 3. “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
I believe, based on the disciples’ past, based on how they treated one another, that when he says to love one another, he’s talking about a kind of love that isn’t always warm fuzzy; he’s talking about a kind of love that overlooks sin, covers sin, that forgives sin, that reconciles to one another. That’s what he wants the disciples to do.
He wants Peter and John to go and ask for forgiveness from Bartholomew and Andrew. He wants the disciples to ask for forgiveness, to reconcile, to come back together. That’s what he’s calling them to do. To humble themselves.
He expects sacrificial love in the church. Now how can we exercise sacrificial love in the church? Well, let’s take some examples. Let’s pretend that you’ve been wronged, you’ve been offended, you’ve been gossiped about, you’ve been criticized unfairly, whatever it may be. You’ve been wronged. We must sacrifice our pride when wronged.
So what our pride says is, you’ve treated me one way and I don’t deserve that. When the reality is, we actually deserve a lot worse. Hell. Eternal torment. But we don’t get that. But our pride says, you’ve treated me wrong; I don’t deserve that. So, I’m not going to then give you my best. So you’ve wronged me and I don’t deserve that, so because you’ve done that to me and you’ve treated me lower than I deserve, I’m going to treat you less than you deserve. I’ll be less kind. Maybe I won’t exert myself to care for you. Whatever it may be, Jesus is calling on them to sacrifice for one another, sacrifice to reconcile the relationship, sacrifice to be right with one another, love one another.
I believe we must also sacrifice our hurt over the relationship’s health. We make our hurt when we’ve been offended the thing that governs the relationship going forward instead of reconciliation. So you’ve offended me, so now I’m going to see to it that the relationship moves forward based on the fact that hanging over all of this is that I am hurt, rather than, you’ve offended me but we are both children of the King who still sin; I’m gonna operate based on the fact that we’re children of the King, and I’m gonna forgive that and we’re gonna move forward. But we don’t do that. We make our hurt paramount. And we then operate based on that.
So we must sacrifice our pride. We must sacrifice our hurt. We must sacrifice our expectations that a person who offends us must change before we will be kind to them in response. So someone’s offended us and we don’t like it; we’re gonna show them in different ways; we’re gonna give them the silent treatment; we’re gonna not do what we used to do for them; we’re not gonna do any of that. We’re gonna keep our distance, and when they change, then I’ll love them.
Brothers and sisters, aren’t we glad Jesus does not love us that way? While we were sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus is just calling us to be like him toward each other.
Our love is to mirror Christ’s love, or else it’s not the love that he requires. The world might be okay with that kind of love. So, we’re best friends, have been since kindergarten, grown up together, in each other’s weddings, things like that. The world says, that’s great. You have a great, loving relationship, but if they offend you then you don’t have to be as kind to them in response and you can still love them. Jesus is saying, no. You love like I loved, or else it’s not true, Christ-like, biblical love.
Have you ever said or thought, I can’t forgive or love that person because of what they did to me, because what they did to me was so great and so horrible? I can’t forgive them. Colossians 3:13 says, “[A]s the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” If we don’t, in a sense we’re saying, what a person has done to us is a greater offense than what we’ve done to Christ. And that’s not true.
Author Jared Wilson is a rather funny guy. He wrote this tweet, and he’s quoting someone, and the quote is attributed to not Jesus. Okay, so things Jesus didn’t say. “And by this, they will know you are Christians, by your mere toleration of one another.” Thought that was kind of humorous.
But I think that’s the way I often operate and you might often operate. They’ll know we’re Christians because we at least tolerate each other. Well you know the difference between tolerating someone and loving them, right? Toleration is, [sigh] I’ll pinch my nose and grit my teeth until you’re out of my presence, but I’m not gonna leave. I’ll stay here until you’re gone. I’ll tolerate you. That’s not love.
Toleration grumbly endures, and I think I made up a word there, but that’s okay. Toleration grumbly endures. Christ-like love actually values the other person because they are important to Christ, sin and all. Christ-like love values them, because they are valuable to Christ. Jesus intends and commands that we put his love on display.
Here’s a possible definition for biblical love. I just took a crack at it. Possible definition for biblical love: It’s the love that humbles self for the sake of one’s enemies. And when I say enemies, don’t think unbelievers. I’m talking about people who we’re currently at enmity with even in the body of Christ, universal body or even local body of Christ. Biblical love: The love that humbles self for the sake of one’s enemies. That’s what Christ did, and that’s what he’s calling his disciples to do.
2. The Ability to Love Like Christ
But listen, here’s the good news. He doesn’t just say, guys, love like I loved. See ya later. He gives us the resources to love like Jesus loved. So you might even be sitting here as I’m teaching the first part of this passage. You might be thinking about what you’ve gone through this week, and you think, I don’t know if I can do that. Here’s the good news: You can if you’re a disciple.
So let’s look at the ability to love like Christ, found in verse 15 to 17. Christ goes on to show his disciples why they can love, why they can obey this command that he gives them. And I’m gonna give you three sub points, three reasons why they can love like this.
- They are able to love as informed friends
First in verse 15, they are able to love as informed friends, and I’ll explain this. They are able to love as informed friends. Verse 15. I love this. “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
Jesus just kind of states what’s plain. If you’re a servant, you don’t need to know why the master tells you to do something. Plow that field. Twice. Why? Just plow the field twice. I’m master; you’re servant.
Jesus is stating the obvious. They would have known that. A master doesn’t need to consult with the servants. A few masters might get together and determine what they’re gonna do with their property and then go on and tell their servants how to carry that out. They don’t have to say, well, we’ve all been talking, and here’s why we’re gonna do all that; does it make sense to you? You okay with that? A master just says, do something, and the servant does it.
Jesus is saying, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” He’s telling them, you know what my Father wants me to do. I’ve told you what he wants me to do. You’ve seen the meeting minutes between the Father and the Son. You know what we’ve been discussing. You know what we’re doing. You know why we’re doing it. You are right there. You know the purpose of what I’m doing here on earth. And I’m gonna leave, and because you know the purpose, you can go carry it out.
What’s amazing to me—and we’ll get to John 17, and I cannot wait for John 17. The high priestly prayer of Jesus for his disciples. It’s a special thing, our relationship to the Trinity. He brings us in. Christ brings us into communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He’s highlighting this here. Because we have that relationship, we’re not just servants; we’re friends of Christ.
Jesus communicates the Father’s work to us, and you’ve seen this. If you’ve been with us from the beginning of John, you’ve seen Jesus talking about the work that he has to do. He does it in John 4, and then in John 9 he tells the disciples, and by the way, it’s gonna be your work too. We must be working while we can work. So Jesus has this work to do, but he brings his disciples into the work, and that shows that they are a privileged group.
When I was in college, I interned for a summer with a local congressman, and interns in congressional offices, you know, aren’t writing huge policy papers and things like that. They’re kind of making coffee and answering phone calls and writing some letters and things like that. Intern is not the highest position in the congressional office, I found out soon.
So I was an intern in this congressional office, and I was in the district, so the congressman was often back in D.C., so I only met him a few times. But there was one day when he was gonna be in the office and there was gonna be a staff meeting. It was the first time I had ever been in the district office when the congressman was back to meet with his staff, and my immediate supervisor came to me before, and I thought I’m just gonna be, you know, would you like regular or decaf, sir? And I thought I was just gonna be doing kind of the grunt work.
And my immediate supervisor came to me, and she said, you know, in most congressional offices, the interns don’t come in to staff meetings. But this congressman views you guys differently, so he wants you to come into the staff meeting today. Wow. I mean, I was on cloud nine. I was like, this is wonderful!
So I go into the staff meeting, expecting to sit kind of over in the corner. He has me sit in the circle with his—I don’t know, there might have been five or six other staff members there. I’m in the circle. And I’m just, you know, I think I was like a freshman or sophomore in college. And I’m sitting there in that circle.
And there was a policy discussion, and he wanted to hear recommendations from the staff. So he goes around to the staff, and he comes to me, and I’m like, okay, she talked [motioning to imaginary person on right]. Okay, your turn [motioning to imaginary person on his left]. No, Andrew, what are your thoughts? I’m like, oh oh oh. Hold on a sec. Do you know how I’m not supposed to be here? That was the idea. But he wanted to hear my thoughts, and he was listening. So I gave him my thoughts.
Now, I’ll never forget the feeling of walking out of that room. When I was done with that meeting, I wanted to do some work. I mean, I’ve been brought in to the inner circle. I’m gonna do this. That fired me up.
It’s a little like what Jesus is saying here. You know what the Father has planned. The Father has planned it to where even though sin came into the world, he would work out human history to reconcile a group of people back to him through the death and resurrection of his Son. And then his Son comes to carry out that plan, and he tells the disciples, I’m gonna leave now, and you’re gonna be the ones to carry out that plan. You are a privileged people.
That’s what he’s telling them. You can do this. You’re on the same mission that I am, and you know the mission. So go do it. That’s what he’s motivating us with. You know what I know; you are friends and not just servants. You are friends.
The Father and Son have brought us into their work. What is their work? Showing the reconciling love of God to the world. That’s their work. The Father is reconciling people from all over the world back to himself because he is a loving God.
And so they call us into that work, and they call us to demonstrate that work, demonstrate that love by how we deal with one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, your love for one another. So evidently God wants the unbelieving world to know how loving he is by how we love one another in the body of Christ. That’s going to preach to the world.
When the world hears, when your unbelieving family hears about the conflict you have with another brother or sister in Christ, and they hear you responding differently than Christ would have you respond, what a horrible testimony of the love of God. But when they see you being offended, being wronged, and how you still love people and cover that sin, that is something they will not see anywhere else, and that demonstrates the love of God.
And Christ is saying, you are my friends because this is the love that you are to put on display. This is the love that the Father intends. This is the love the Father sent me into the world to demonstrate, and you’re going to do the same thing. You’re on a mission with the Father and I.
- They have been chosen to love
He then gives them another reason that they can exercise this type of love. They’ve been chosen to do so. First part of verse 16: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide,” or remain.
If they chose him, in a sense, their discipleship is on their terms. You know Jesus, I was kind of doing my own thing for a while. Then I kind of listened to some of your sermons and heard you preach, you know, on the Sea of Galilee. I kind of watched what you were doing a little bit. And I decided, you know what, I’m gonna follow this guy. But hold on, don’t demand too much. I chose to follow you. If anything gets too uncomfortable, I might back out for a little bit.
See, if they think that they chose to follow him, the relationship is basically on their terms. But he says, you didn’t choose me. I chose you. Philip, remember? Andrew, remember? I mean, it’s clear in John 1, he came and chose them. They weren’t looking for him.
It’s the difference between maybe a young person who is looking for work. They’re looking for work in a healthy economy. There are jobs available. You know, I’ll work here, and if I don’t like kind of the hours they’re giving me, I’ll just kind of quit and go work here, or whatever it may be. They just kind of think, I’ll choose the company, and if I don’t like it I’ll check out or change something or say no to a boss’ request. No, I don’t think so, because remember, I can always leave and choose someone else.
It’s the difference between that and a time when jobs are scarce and when everyone’s looking but no one can find one. And then you get a ring on the telephone or a vibration or whatever it is you get nowadays on telephones. And someone says, listen, I’m choosing you to come work for my company; I’ve got work for you to do. It’s like, you’re then beholden to that person, like whatever you say. I’m grateful; whatever you say. You’re not the authority; the boss is the authority. They chose you for a specific task.
Jesus chose the disciples to live a certain way, to do a certain task. They didn’t choose him. It’s the same way in our salvation. We might think that we were looking for him. Yeah, starting off in college, you know, I just kind of was living the wrong way, and I thought, you know, I need God. So I started looking for God. Well that’s true as far as it goes, but the Bible talks about something outside of our immediate perspective. That’s our perspective. But Ephesians 1:4 says, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.”
Now this doesn’t mean that we responded to Christ or we chose Christ before the foundation of the world. Why? Because we didn’t exist. That’s obvious, right? We didn’t exist. We weren’t born yet. He chose us in him before the foundation of the world.
Romans 8 even says that those whom he foreknew he predestined. Those whom he predestined he called. That’s the first awareness that we have. We heard the gospel at a summer camp, we heard the gospel in a church service, we heard the gospel from our parents, and we responded. That’s what we know. It starts with the calling. But before that, the Bible tells us there were some other things going on. He set his sights on us in love. “[E]ven as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
And notice, by the way, Jesus didn’t just choose the disciples to escape hell. Guys, I chose you that you would not suffer the wrath of God. You are not going to be in hell; you’re gonna be in heaven. All right, I’ll see ya later. No. He chose us not only to be freed from the wrath of God, given the righteousness of Christ; he chose us to go and bear fruit for him.
So he didn’t just choose us to be saved. He chose us to be holy, to grow, to walk with him, to abide with him. He chose us for the whole thing, not just one part of our salvation. He chose us for a specific work, to go and bear fruit.
Now, people debate on what it actually means to bear fruit. There are really two aspects to it. One, bearing fruit does speak of reaching other people like Christ and having more fruit come in that sense. You can see that in the Scriptures. So as we present the gospel of Christ, more people come, and we’re actually bringing more fruit in by our fruitfulness. So it’s evangelistic.
But there’s also a sense where bearing fruit is looking like Christ, having the character of Christ, growing like Christ, obeying like Christ. You can see that in Galatians 5, right? The fruit of the Spirit? Galatians 5. And notice what the first fruit of the spirit is. And most often in the epistles, when there’s a list of character traits, the one at the beginning governs all the other ones.
Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is...” What is it? Love. Some of you are ready to go on, like yeah. I just meant the first one. But you’re right: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
And by the way, notice all those character traits. Those character traits are hard to practice when you’re simply in your closet by yourself. You’re gonna be around people who you’ve got to love, be joyful around, be at peace with, be patient with, be kind to. Goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
So bearing fruit is evangelistic, bringing in more people into the kingdom, but it’s also putting on the characteristics of Christ. God chose us to do that. He called us to a privilege relationship with him and gave us the power to go and do that. So he’s saying, love me. You’ve been appointed to love. Love each other. You’ve been appointed to love each other. You’ve been appointed to this type of life. So we can obey this way, to love and bear fruit, because it’s our destiny in a sense.
- Christ gives us power through prayer
We can also love this way because Christ gives us his power through prayer, and that’s the third sub point. We’re able to love this way because Christ gives us power through prayer. So we’re able to love by prayer in Christ’s name.
Second part of verse 16: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
Let’s get the big picture. Jesus involves us in the Father’s mission and his mission, which is the same mission—to reconcile sinners, to demonstrate the love of Christ in the world. He brings us into that mission. Then he says that you’ve been chosen for this mission, and you’ve been chosen to demonstrate this love. So you know what the mission is. I’ve called you specifically, guys, to the mission, to demonstrate this love. And, he’ll be there when we ask for strength.
He doesn’t just say, here’s the mission. Go do it. You’re on your own. He says, here’s the mission. Go do it. You’ve been destined for this. And I am here to help you; just ask. And what could be more in the name or in the will of Christ than asking God to help you reconcile with people who’ve sinned against you? That’s exactly what he did.
So if you want to pray in the will of God, pray that prayer. Lord, help me to love people who are not easy for me to love. He’s the embodiment of that prayer request! That’s the prayer request to pray that lines up with his will that he will answer. This is a great promise.
You picture a family getting ready to sell a home, and there’s all kind of work that needs to be done, inside, outside. And one of the children is tasked to take down this dead tree, so remove this dead tree from the backyard. And the father tells the son, this is why you’re doing it, to help out the family. You’re gonna be a means to us maybe getting more money for it. You know the plan; you know why we’re doing this. You got a job. We’re choosing you to get the dead tree out of the backyard. We’re in this together. And when you start, if at any time you need help—and you will need help because you won’t be able to do this by yourself—whenever you need help, you just come around the corner while I’m working on something else, and you ask, and I will be there.
Here’s the picture. For the son to try to remove the tree by himself would be folly. Fine, I’ll just love people who are unlovable. I’ll try. Well, what’s that? That’s doing it on our own strength. But if we say, Lord, I don’t know if I can do this. As a matter of fact, I know I can’t do this on my own. You’re available to me with your strength and your power, and I’m gonna ask you something that you perfectly want me to do, that lines up perfectly with your will. You’re available; I need your strength; you tell me to ask; I’m gonna go and ask, and we can get this tree out. That’s the idea.
You have trouble loving people who maybe are not always the most lovable? Ask the Father. This is a prayer he promises to answer. What’s the prayer look like? Lord, give me the heart of Jesus Christ. Lord, give me a heart of compassion rather than anger. Give me a heart that minimizes the way I’ve been offended and maximizes who this other believer is in your sight. Let me see this believer how you see them.
I mean, there’s all kinds of things to pray for to line ourselves up in the will of Christ. This is the heart cry. We are able to actually do this when we pray in the name of Christ.
So we have the ability to obey what Christ commands. And what’s the command again, lest we forget? Verse 17: “These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” They’re bookends, right? You see verse 12: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Verse 17: “These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
You know why Jesus said things more than once? So we wouldn’t forget. That’s what he’s saying here. “These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” Take all that I’ve just told you, disciples. You’ve been brought into the Father and the Son’s plan. You are friends. You’ve been chosen for this, and you have access to my power. Just ask. Take all of that and use it to love one another. That’s what Jesus is saying.
Now, I’ve got some points of application, just some pastoral points of application. Three of them. First, understand love’s priority to God. Love among the brethren is a huge priority to God. Every time someone says, I love Christ; I just don’t love the church, an angel loses its wings. I mean, it just doesn’t square up. I’m kidding, by the way. Theologically that’s not true.
But any time we say that, it’s as if heaven gives us one of these: Huh? You need to read your Bible some more. You can’t say that. I’ve used this illustration before. I can’t remember who said it, but it says if someone says, Andrew, I love you; I just hate your wife. Uh, then you don’t love me. You don’t understand this. We go together here.
Understand love’s priority to God. Read your New Testament. All over the place. One of the things that we’ll receive greater reward for or less reward for as believers in heaven when the judgment of eternal rewards comes, greater rewards or less, is how we loved people in the body when they wronged us. This is a huge priority in the New Testament.
You can look virtually in every New Testament epistle. There is some sort of conflict going on in the church. In almost every single one. And there are instructions for how to overcome that by love. So first, understand love’s priority to God.
Secondly, rehearse the ability you have. No one’s allowed—okay, if you’re a part of our congregation this morning—no one’s allowed to go out of here saying, oh, I can’t do that. He doesn’t know all I’ve gone through. Not allowed to say that. It’s not about what I say. It’s about what this text says.
We have resources. At the very top of that resource list is the doctrine of our being united to Christ. We have a new nature. Whose nature is it? Martin Luther’s? Jonathan Edwards’? Some other great Christian? No, it’s Christ’s nature, the sinless one’s nature. We have his nature now as we are in Christ, as we are believers. We’ve been converted. We’ve been raised from the dead to life. We are new people. We’re new creations.
So no one’s allowed to say, well I know technically I’m a new creation, but I’m actually not in this area. No one’s allowed to say that. Rehearse the ability you have.
Third, make specific effort to communicate reconciling love to another believer. I have a feeling some of you have been thinking of someone. I’m not a mind reader, just a pastor. My shepherding instincts say that maybe you’ve been thinking of someone. I believe that it would be disobedient to be thinking of that person through the whole sermon and then to walk out of here with no desire to do anything about that relationship. Make a specific effort to communicate reconciling love to another believer.
Now, I want to just pull the car over and make a note. When you teach verse by verse through the Bible, one thing you will often hear after your sermons is, that was convicting. Because the Bible is convicting for believers. It stings. It’s hard. We need to rethink things. And that’s appropriate. If you don’t want conviction, then don’t preach verse by verse through the Bible. But if you’re gonna do that, it’s going to come with conviction.
But maybe the thing I’ve been dwelling on all week long: For a believer, when there is conviction, there is also hope. All kinds of gracious hope. Because when we say, I haven’t done this well, we’re secure. If you’re a believer, you’re secure in the love of Christ. He will not judge you based on how poorly you obeyed these commands to love. He will judge you by his Son’s righteousness. That’s the beauty of the gospel.
So I don’t want the response to be, I’m convicted by this; I just gotta change and show God that I’m really his. No. When you’re convicted, smile and relish the fact that you stand in grace. You swim in grace! All grace all the time. And that conviction will then lead to repentance—which I say this all the time—and repentance leads to joy. If you don’t believe that, read Luke 15. Repentance leads to joy. Confession of sin leads to joy.
So it’s good that we’re convicted. But I never want conviction to be the end of the story. Be convicted. Take it to the cross. You died for the ways that I have disobeyed this command to love one another. You died for that, and you’ve also given me the grace to change to be like you, and I praise you that I’m secure in your love as I seek to model you, Lord Jesus. You say that with joy.
The gospel is actually good news. We believe that we’re forgiven even though we still sin. But that motivates us to want to be like Christ all the more.
So conviction—good. But realize there’s conviction and there’s grace with the conviction. Titus 2 says that grace teaches us. So yes, it convicts; it also instructs us in how to move forward in how to grow into the image of Christ.
So I just want there to be hope and joy even amidst conviction. All right? I’m saying that for all sermons in the future. All right? Conviction—good. Grace and hope are present.
To just summarize this whole section, Jesus commanded his disciples to love like he has loved. We are able to do this because we are informed friends and have been specifically chosen to bear fruit that remains by the power of prayer.
I started this message by showing you the folly of the disciples. Now I want to conclude with some of the things they wrote after receiving this command, after receiving the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and after he had given them his word, which we have. Listen to some of the things they wrote. Listen to what Peter wrote.
1 Peter 4:8: “Above all,” so this is a supreme command that he’s about to give us, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” To the New Testament writers, love most often isn’t romantic love. It’s that hard love that wills compassion, that wills patience, that wills forbearance.
He doesn’t say, keep loving one another earnestly, because love is like a rose. Love is like a beautiful sunset. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a lot of sins. That’s Peter. That’s one of the men arguing with the other ones about how he was better than they were. That’s Peter saying that.
Listen to John. “Beloved,” loved ones, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). Peter had been changed. John clearly has been changed.
Listen to James. This isn’t the disciple in the twelve James. This is the Lord’s brother. Listen to James, who at one time did not believe that his brother was the Messiah, but now does. James 2:8: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, [which is] ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.” James knew the royal law, the supreme command that his brother had preached. He knew it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. James had been changed.
Listen to Paul. Again, not one of the original twelve, but Paul was later made an apostle by a specific revelation by Jesus Christ, of Jesus Christ. Paul was not known to be a loving guy before his conversion. As a matter of fact, he hated Christians, was instrumental in their death, was going to actually kill them when Christ appeared to him and changed his heart. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
You think love was important to the disciples? Why? Because love was important to their Savior and their Lord.
About two years ago, we were in Colossians 3, that famous passage about forgiving one another and bearing with one another and loving one another. And one of the most encouraging things so far in my life as your pastor was when we were in Miller Valley School, and in the middle of that series, it was before the service had started. It was in the back of the gym, and a dear lady—and I know she’s here today; I’m not gonna tell you who she is—a dear lady came up to me with tears in her eyes and said, my husband, based on this teaching evidently, my husband has become more loving toward people. That proves that the word of God by the Spirit of God has power.
You know, older men aren’t always known for their love. Older men are sometimes known to be curmudgeons. I’m not saying you; I’m just saying out there, generally. But this lady saw the Spirit of Christ in her husband based on these passages.
Peter had been changed. John had been changed. Paul had been changed. This husband, this dear man, had evidently been changed. This is what Jesus does when he gives a command. He gives the power to obey it. May we all demonstrate our change so that we point to him, the one who loved us first. Let’s pray.
Father, make us like your Son in this way. Let love be important to us. Let reconciliation be important to us. Lord, I’m praying specifically that people who know us that are not in Christ would see our love for one another and connect the dots back to you and understand that this is a group unlike they’ve seen before because we serve a God who they don’t know.
And Father, draw them to your Son. Draw them to enjoy the love he offers sinners. And change them to demonstrate that love to who they know, and in that sense, pass it on. Pass on your reconciling love from person to person so that you may be glorified. It’s in your Son’s name we pray. Amen.
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